Looking for a super delicious, hearty and healthy meal? This pasta dish should do the trick! Jumbo pasta shells are stuffed with apple sage vegan sausage crumbles, garlic, fresh spinach, a simple tofu sage ricotta and tender roasted butternut squash. They’re all baked in a silky roasted butternut squash sauce that’s so creamy and delicious! If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, this is even better then next day!
The inspiration behind this dish? Fresh sage. I recently discovered how totally amazing this herb is fresh, as I’d only ever used it dried. I’d heard it is also really nice fried, so I got curious and had to try it out for myself. If you haven’t fried fresh sage before, it might be time! It takes literally only a few seconds in a bit of hot oil and it’s done. It becomes crispy and delicate, it’s green hue deepens and it makes for the prettiest garnish! Hence this dish, which became a vehicle for said garnish. If you want to try it out, this is the recipe I used.
Tips for Perfect Stuffed Shells:
- boil the pasta shells until they are *almost* cooked. They will continue cooking in the oven once they are stuffed. If they are boiled until soft (or overcooked), they will be hard to handle when stuffing and risk being a bit gluey once baked.
- I recommend using a white balsamic vinegar if you have it. It has a really nice flavor without staining everything brown like regular balsamic will. If you don’t have any white balsamic, rice wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or even some lemon juice are all good choices.
- roasting really brings out the best in root vegetables. A bit of caramelization and crispiness happens, flavors deepen… To help this happen, coat all sides of the cubed squash with the oil, and give each piece some space (no stacking, try to have some space between each piece, and roast once the oven is preheated). Toss at least once during roasting.
- when making the ricotta, break up the tofu and other ingredients in the food processor but go slow, and pulse only until it looks pulled together. We’re looking to have some texture left, not a paste.
- don’t have apple sage vegan sausages? You can use another type, just keep in mind the flavor profile. For example, a Mexican flavor might compete too much here. You can even skip the sausages, and add in a cup or so of cooked navy beans if you’re looking to add some extra nutrition.
- when mixing the filling at the end, go gently so you don’t mash up the squash. You’ll be able to pick and choose what goes in each shell as you fill it, so better to under mix than over mix.
- I tested this recipe the way a marinara sauce based stuffed shell recipe goes. That is, I added half the sauce to the casserole dish then added the stuffed shells and then topped with the rest of the sauce. While it tasted good, I found that the sauce reduced too much and became a bit cracked on top. This isn’t a big deal, but adding all the sauce to the bottom at once has a few benefits: 1) it’s easier, 2) it looks prettier, and 3) the sauce remains silky and not dry. Just be sure to keep covered in foil during baking.
If you make these Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash, Sausage and Sage Ricotta Stuffed Shells, please give it a rating in the recipe card or let me know in the comments! I love connecting on Instagram where you can tag me in your creations using my recipes. You can also follow me on Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for reading along!
Vegan Butternut Squash & Sage Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- 25-30 jumbo pasta shells (most of a 250g pkg)
For the Squash and the Sauce:
- 3 lb (1 large) butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and diced into 3/4″ pieces
- 7 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 cups unsweetened plant-based milk
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp light miso (eg. shiro)
For the Filling:
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 medium brown onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 14 oz firm tofu, drained
- 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar (can sub with rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar)
- 1 tsp salt
- 8 sage leaves, cut into ribbons
- 2 vegan apple sage sausages, crumbled or diced
- 4 cups, packed baby spinach leaves,
- coarse salt and fresh pepper, to serve
- fried sage for garnish, if desired
For the Noodles:
- Prepare the noodles according to package directions. It’s best to slightly under-cook them so they don’t fall apart while you’re trying to fill them, and don’t become mushy when they are baked. Drain, rinse with cold water, and toss with a bit of oil so they don’t stick together. Keep covered so they don’t dry out.
For the Squash and the Sauce:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the peeled and cubed butternut squash on the baking sheet with 4 tablespoons of oil. Ensure all of the pieces are evenly coated, and lie in a single layer on the pan for even roasting. Roast in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until fork tender and there’s some browning, tossing once.
- In a medium-sized pot, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add in the flour, and whisk constantly for 2-3 minutes. This mixture (white roux) should bubble and smell fragrant. Slowly whisk in the plant-based milk, and bring up to a simmer. Continue whisking and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat.
- Pour the sauce into a blender. Add in the nutmeg, miso, white balsamic vinegar, miso paste and 1 cup of the roasted butternut squash. Blend until completely smooth, taking care the lid is secure so you don’t get burned.
For the Ricotta:
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook until softened and starting to become translucent, about 2 minutes.
- In a food processor, combine the onion, garlic, tofu, vinegar, salt, and sage. Pulse until combined, but there’s still some texture (it shouldn’t be a paste.)
- Over medium heat in the same skillet you fried your onions in, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the crumbled sausages and cook for 2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add in the spinach, stirring to encourage it to wilt. Remove from heat. Add in the tofu ricotta and remaining roasted butternut squash, stirring gently so as not to mash the squash.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Spread the sauce in a 9 x 13″ casserole dish. Fill each shell generously with the sausage ricotta mixture, and fit them snugly into the pan over the sauce. Cover with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until hot and bubbly throughout. Enjoy!